FEATURE: Akiyla Mc Queen aka Chef by Nature and Neptune Naga El aka Chef Supreme

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It has been 9 1/2 years since I’ve returned to the vegan life. My mom raised my sister and I off of a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle as children. It actually wasn't until I was about ten years old that I had my first piece of meat (chicken) from a family member, and fell in deep 😂. Since I was born into Islam, by the time I did try chicken, I still felt conflicted about eating pork so I never had the desire to eat it. The only beef I've ever eaten were cheeseburgers from McDonald's, and I decided early that sea animals were just not for me. So, chicken, turkey, dairy, and eggs were the animals that I consumed until I was reintroduced to the vegan lifestyle at 19 years old.

Some vegan friends of mine sat me and another friend of ours down and had us watch the documentary Earthlings. That one documentary alone was enough to snap us both back into reality. It offered a deeper explanation of why going vegan was important as opposed to the usual black mama tactics of my vegetarian mommy who would say “because I said so” and “you better not eat that poison" 😂. 

Needless to say I'm thankful to my friends because they not only reintroduced the lifestyle but they were also a VERY great support throughout the transition. They made meals for us, told us where we could buy food from, shopped with us and brought us fun treats like vegan cakes and cookies 😋. We became vegan over night and never looked back. 

Becoming vegan initially was about the mistreatment of animals. Then as I started to see changes happening within my body, health was added into the mix. It wasn't just someone telling me I would "feel" better but I actually did feel better. Prior to becoming vegan I had chronic ovarian cysts, really harsh PMS, and fainting spells. Changing the way I ate eliminated all of those things. I was starting to truly live. A few months after the change I did the Big Chop because now that I was cognizant of what I was putting in my body, I also didn't want to put poison on my body, and that included the types of products that I used on my skin. I started throwing away toxic products and introducing plant based/cruelty free products into my life, thus, fully embracing the vegan culture!

As time continued to go on, it also became the catalyst for my spiritual transformation. It awakened my souls purpose. It awakened my senses to the divine and I felt so much more clear. I had no idea that changing the way I ate would change me so much, and for me, it was for the better. So I give thanks to this lifestyle. It was one of the most important decisions I've made in my life and I have no regrets whatsoever. I have had 3 children with a fully vegan diet and all of our children are still 100% vegan. 

My love and I are on the same page on so many things, and eating plant based is no different. He is completely raw while I’m about 80% raw as well as the children. We believe that a high-to-completely-raw diet is optimal for health, and that eating should primarily be for our nutrition and not to just entice our tongues 😂 to later bother our bellies. We are both certified Raw Vegan Chefs and will be offering services very soon to help bring more awareness to eating raw living foods!

We have witnessed that living this way has increased our connection to nature, to people from all walks of life, and to respect animals as beautiful wisdom-filled beings that share this Earth with us. 

We also find it very important to help assist the evolution of consciousness on this planet and that comes with living a life that spreads love and light. 

Social Media

Instagram@avegansparadise - Chef by Nature
Facebook: Akiyla Mc Queen
Facebook: Neptune Naga El
YouTube channel: Akiyla Mc Queen

FEATURE: Lotta John

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I was raised vegetarian, but for a long time I wasn't aware that veganism is the only way to stop exploiting animals (cognitive dissonance...).
Four years ago that thinking process started when my mom went vegan. 
Now three of my siblings, my grandma, and even my boyfriend are vegan.

Why am I vegan?

Yes, animals are cute...and of course I like animals. And sure, a vegan diet can be healthy (which in my opinion, doesn't have much to do with it being vegan). But more than those reasons, my motivation for not eating meat is to respect life without being speciesist. I think speciesism, racism, and sexism are all based on similar thoughts. 

With my Instagram page, I try to challenge stereotypes surrounding who black people/vegans/women are, and what they look like. 

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I don't wear makeup, I have muscles, and I'm obviously not suffering from a lack of protein. I want to motivate people to go vegan without pushing anyone - I want them to just see me as an example. 

I wish for a world where we don't have to buy commodities based on human or animal suffering. 

Social Media

Instagram: @lotta_john

FEATURE: Darrell D. West

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In 2011, I started the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Denver Inc. to help African American people lead an active lifestyle. I was already pretty healthy - or so I thought. The combination of eating anything and everything, along with a few unhealthy lifestyle habits, began to slowly me down significantly.

I initially began my plant based journey in hopes of getting off of the prescription medication I was taking for high blood pressure and cholesterol. After months of feeling run down, having headaches, foggy headed, just not feeling good in general and watching folks my age dropping dead from preventable diseases, I made the commitment to do anything in my power to get off the medication I was being prescribed. I was suffering from all the typical signs of your body being flooded with toxins.

My older brother and one of my childhood friends had already been living a plant based lifestyle. They never went overboard promoting a vegan lifestyle and didn't really say much about it other than turning down any thing with meat saying "no I don't eat that". I fired off text after text picking their minds about recipes and started doing my own research on the food we eat and how it's processed. Along the way I learned about how leading a plant based lifestyle is proven to reverse heart disease and diabetes. After years of taking my health for granted I made the commitment to myself to do everything possible to remain healthy for the long run.

Transitioning to a plant based lifestyle has lowered my blood pressure/ cholesterol and I no longer suffer from any of the symptoms I was previously experiencing. The best thing about a plant based lifestyle is the acceptance of the power you have within yourself, the ability to rely on oneself instead of always seeking help out of a situation. I have learned to embrace the uncomfortable moments and in those times dig deep inside and figure out what really matters in each situation. Meditation and exercise have been a huge help for me during the transition to a plant based lifestyle. I can truly say that I have regained control of every aspect of my life.

Social Media

Instagram: @hillside_herbivore

FEATURE: Moriah

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My story of becoming vegan is a little different . I grew up in a Christian sect that encouraged vegetarianism and veganism. Living a plant-based life was praised as peaceful and Godly. However, it wasn't until much later in adulthood that I made the choice for myself to become vegan.

During my first year of college, I started having health issues and had to be hospitalized. I had a chronic stomach issue. I reached a low point in my life. Dealing with illness shows you who your friends are, and who you are. As I sat on the hospital bed, I reflected on the years of my life and decided that moving forward, I would have the best life ever. I started to make changes to my diet and what I ate. By that time, I had flirted with vegetarianism, but decided to become fully plant-based. I cooked food at home. I went outdoors to exercise instead of working out indoors. I started a blog to document the food I ate.  

I had a lot of time to reflect and through my reflection decided to listen to my body. I found out that my body worked best eating a plant-based, vegan diet. 

As I learned more about veganism, and about the meat and dairy industries, I started to feel really good about what I was doing. I made even more changes in how I lived my life and became a full-blown vegan.
In some ways, you have to be a pretty strong and determined person. People had a lot to say about my change, and many were not accepting. However, I feel like becoming a vegan has bettered my health, the environment, and my community. 

Social Media

Instagram: @eatbrightliving

FEATURE: Sunny

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After watching documentaries on Netflix like Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy and Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, I was scared that I was feeding the diseases I was trying to prevent. So in October of 2016, I decided I had had enough of the junk and started to remove dairy and all meats, including seafood, from my diet. It wasn’t easy at first but as a result, I have more energy, less bloating, my skin is clearing up, and I have regular bowel movements. The best part? My joint pain and body aches, that I have suffered with for decades, have almost vanished; that's all because I decided to to maintain a whole foods, plant-based diet.

This lifestyle change along with the knowledge of the impact animal proteins have on our bodies, has inspired me to make health my life’s work. I’m changing careers to become a health coach to help people meet their health goals and turn their lives around through exercise, mindfulness and adapting a more nourishing diet. It also inspired me to start a YouTube channel to help new vegans understand that it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive to eat healthy and it all starts with changing one simple thing.

I can be found at:

Instagram: _naturallysunny_
YouTube: Naturally Sunny
SC: sunny_daze89
 

FEATURE: Shaun Flores

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Black first. Vegan second. My name is Shaun Flores and I’m a pro-black actor, model and intersectional vegan. I am a product of the system I am designed to destroy. Human privilege has been the worst privilege of all time. We render ourselves superior to those who do not speak our language. Because of this, we live in a world with stark injustices vividly painted before our eyes. But due to hyper-normalization, we remain oblivious to this. I had to re-condition my mind from the systems I was plugged into. Veganism as a black man was the very first step.  

My vegan journey began three years ago. Becoming vegan showed me there is a world beyond meat. Growing up in a Caribbean household I have consumed all types of meat, from chicken, lamb, beef, fish and exotic meats such as deer, possum (tattoo) and iguana.  As young men, we are indoctrinated to believe that strength comes from the consumption of meat, which I adhered to as a religion. Young men need “meat” to qualify as “real men."  Imagine, I am 6'3'' with a slim, long, athletic build. When I became vegan for health reasons, I was told I needed “meat” to put on weight. Society has conditioned us to genuinely believe that weight can only be achieved when we have meat on our plates.  Hegemonic toxic black masculinity is in dire need of decolonization for us as black people. My manhood is not determined by my meat consumption. I am my own man. Manhood is taking care of my environment and my temple which is my body.

The reality is that you are either the oppressor or the one who is being oppressed. To truly become a conscious responsible person who cares about Mother Nature,  we have to became responsible inhabitants of Earth. Mother Nature, to me, is the real God who dictates the course of life. It’s time to value life over taste. We were once, and are still, dehumanized as a people, and animalized. We are likened to all breeds of animals, yet we consume them.

How can we attach such a powerful and positive adjective like “humane” to slaughter? Slaughter is slaughter. Rape is rape. Veganism is trending and we are morally waking up from the meat matrix we reside in. I took a pill and I have never slept since. I am also a master's student in race, media, and social justice. I study colonialism, and I have learned that the ecology of the planet has changed, in addition to our diets as black people. It's imperative that we return to our roots.

My Instagram is https://www.instagram.com/theshaunflores/

FEATURE: Angel Hall

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Angel is a single Mom of four amazing kids and she is a night shift Pediatric Transplant Nurse.

I had a slow transition into veganism. So, while I have never eaten pork, crabs, or lobster, it has been about 30 years since I've eaten beef. I ate chicken off and on for a while.  Fish, like salmon, cod, or sea bass were the last to be eliminated.  I was a single mom to my son who is now 27 years old and at the age of 24, I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis and fibroids.  After having many surgeries. I was told at age 25 that I would need a hysterectomy.  I refused, but remained in complete denial about my disease.  I had another surgery to remove the fibroids a couple of years later.

My mom suggested that I try some natural herbs and juicing, but I wasn't very interested in natural healing.  After years of suffering physically, as well as struggling with depression and miscarriages, I was told by a gynecologist that I would never get pregnant with all my medical problems.  By this time, the fibroids had returned a third time, my fallopian tubes were blocked, and my endometriosis pain and symptoms were out of control.  I was 32.  My last hope was IVF and even the specialist told me with my history I would have a less than 5 % success rate.  I never take "no" for an answer, so I did my own research and every time, veganism came up as a way to improve fibroids and endometriosis.  I started the IVF cycle combined with Chinese herbs, and stopped eating dairy and meat.  I ate fish sometimes.  Six months later I was pregnant after one extended IVF cycle.  Everyone was shocked.  I was pescatarian for a couple of years, then after adding the raw juicing and cutting out the meats, I decided to go full vegan by age 36. 

Her dad is from the south so, he is a carnivore at heart.  It can be challenging being vegan while your spouse is not. This can make teaching your child about veganism quite difficult.  I got stronger and healthier over time and for my second daughter, even though I couldn't get pregnant naturally due to my blocked fallopian tubes, I only needed a mini cycle of IVF meds.  My pregnancy with Danya, as a vegan, was amazing and even though I had anatomical challenges, my fibroids has 'shrunk' and my adhesions were minimal.  I also did acupuncture and lots of raw juicing too. 

I have been a pediatric nurse for 25 yers and have worked in every specialty, mostly oncology, transplant, gastroenterology,  and the emergency department.  I have always been so amazed by these strong parents who go through the long days and nights with their sick children. This inspired me to start a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity called What About Us Inc. where we help parents with basic supplies and daily needs like toiletries, gas cards, water, etc. I am in the process of launching a new project called "Bags of Love' where I will have a tote bag filled with basic essentials available for 40-50 families per month who stay at the Ronald McDonald Houses or other charity accommodations that help house families while their child is hospitalized.  

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My oldest daughter, Danaé, is 14 years old and has fibromyalgia and possibly lupus (still being tested), which is unfortunately genetically linked to me. She has learned the importance of a vegan, gluten free diet.  She still dances six days a week, plays the piano and flute.  My middle daughter, Danya, is eight years old and she does gymnastics six days a week and plays the piano as well.  She was vegan for the first five years of her life and ate chicken and fish off and on for a couple years. However, she has been vegan and gluten free for almost 2 years now. My baby, Danielle, is four years old and does rhythmic gymnastics three days a week, and dances one day.  She ate chicken and fish for about nine to ten months of her life.  Their dad eats meat, and even though we were separated, he would give them meat sometimes.  Now he doesn't because they've expressed to him that they do not want to eat meat any longer because they don't want to be sick or hurt animals.

Sometimes it's challenging being vegan among friends and teachers who are not vegan since they may not understand what veganism is really about.  Danaé is in high school, and she tries to share knowledge and teach her classmates why it's healthier to be vegan.  She leads by example and over time, they have become more curious about her lifestyle.  Danya  tells her teacher if they have a pizza or ice cream party that she needs to tell her mom so she can make a vegan version of it. Then on the day of the party, her friends are curious to see if it looks different.  Danya loves to tell her friends that she eats more than salads and that's why she has more muscles than them, and she can run a mile in seven and a half minutes.  Danielle is still learning but her teachers at her pre-school all know that she is not to eat anything other than what I have packed for her in her lunch.  She's learning though but she's only 4:)

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Their favorite vegan foods are: gluten free pasta with spinach and vegan kale pesto sauce, lentils, vegan plain yogurt with fresh fruit, snap peas, roasted sweet potatoes and veggies, raw broccoli, carrots, cucumber, celery with hummus or guacamole, gluten free vegan waffles, gluten free toast and fresh avocado, vegan gluten free pizza, veggie fritters, vegan ice cream, and  rice and stir fried vegan eggs n' veggies.  They are VERY good daughters so I'm very blessed:)

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They now understand, and have even shown me, how awful the process of slaughtering animals is for meat consumption. They don't agree with it at all.  They love pandas, deer, dolphins, pigs, koalas and some dogs, although Danaé is allergic and scared of them. 

We believe and understand that animals are just as important as we are and deserve the same respect.  It's hard to convince others all the time and we don't want to turn them off by being annoying, so we try to live by example and hope it arouses their curiosity.  

Social Media:

Instagram page for the kids: @dzvegankidathletes

Mother's Instagram page: @coconutqueen2508

 

FEATURE: Pash Lowery and Kobe Stocking

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Pash is 45 years young and she has been vegan for a year and a half. Kobe is her 15 year old son and he's been vegan for 8 months. 

Deciding to go vegan was one of the best decisions I ever made. I went vegan for my business, for health reasons, and of course, because of the constant cruelty to animals. We are animal lovers so I couldn’t justify just being vegetarian because that was still affecting animals in some way shape or form. Then we watched a documentary called “Earthlings” and that just sent us over the edge. Next, of course, we eventually watched “What the Health” and both of those documentaries confirmed for us that we wanted to completely live a veganistic lifestyle. My son got on board shortly after me, as he was previously vegetarian as well.

I am the founder of Poshology, which is a lifestyle brand and we currently have an all ethical vegan skincare and body care line. We don’t test on animals, we don’t use any vendors that test on animals, and we don’t and will not use any animal by-products in our line. As our brand continues to grow we will always keep our ethical standards. Like a lot of other vegans, we believe that humans were not meant to eat meat or consume any type of dairy. Both my son and I have noticed a major difference in our weight, skin, energy, and overall health since going vegan. I’m super impressed with my son sticking to this lifestyle as it is pretty hard for a 15 year old to maintain veganism. He goes grocery shopping with me and makes sure to check labels to ensure there are no sneaky animal products in them. 

Social Media

Pash's Personal Instagram: thepashone
Poshology Instagram: poshology
Kobe's Instagram: kobe58